Thomasin McKenzie – Hollywood’s Next Breakout Star?

Thomasin McKenzie might not be a household name right now, but that's likely to change in the coming years.

By Rick Gonzales | Published

If the name isn’t familiar to you, don’t worry, it soon will be. Thomasin McKenzie is a rising star who has already shown the knack for selecting great roles and the ability to adapt to any setting. She is remarkable with accents and for an actress, amazingly reserved, almost to the point of being shy. You may recognize her, she’s already starred in a number of big films, then again, you may not. So, who is Thomasin McKenzie, and why are we so high on this young actress?

WHERE IS THOMASIN MCKENZIE FROM?

One of the main reasons why you may not have seen or heard of Thomasin McKenzie is the fact that she was born in Wellington, New Zealand and for much of her early career, her acting projects have all taken place in New Zealand. McKenzie, who is now 22 years old, is the daughter of New Zealand actress Miranda Harcourt and director Stuart McKenzie. She is also the granddaughter of New Zealand acting royalty, Dame Kate Harcourt.

Although Thomasin is a third-generation actress, acting was not in her early plans. True, her parents were very happy when she finally decided to embrace the family way, “My parents were pretty pleased when I followed in their footsteps,” McKenzie said to ELLE. “But it wasn’t expected.”

Thomasin was a biology lover in school and her first dream was to work with animals. “I definitely didn’t want to be an actress at first,” she explains. “I was more interested in being a vet or working at an animal rescue.” What Thomasin began to realize was that she was enjoying the time away from school she was afforded when she started taking on small acting gigs. Plus, she was making some extra money.

“In the beginning, I would do it just so I could get pocket money so I could buy myself Bratz Dolls and Sylvanian Families,” Thomasin McKenzie explained. “That was my main incentive—and also to get time off school was a bonus.” And then something wonderful happened for Thomasin. “But the more I did it, the more I fell in love with it.”

Thomasin McKenzie got her first role in the 2012 New Zealand film Existence. In fact, her first ten or so projects all were New Zealand-made, including her small role as Astrid in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. After that, Thomasin was seen in the long-running New Zealand nighttime soap opera Shortland Street. Then it was End of Term, Bright Summer Night, the TV movie Jean, The Cul De Sac, and Lucy Lewis Can’t Lose.

THOMASIN MCKENZIE HAS WORKED WITH HER FAMILY

Having a family that comes from an acting background certainly can have its benefits. Take, for instance, the 2017 fantasy horror film, The Changeover. The film starred Melanie Lynskey, Lucy Lawless, Timothy Spall, Erana James, and Thomasin McKenzie. It tells the story of Laura (James) who finds herself in a battle with an ancient spirit who has designs on her family. Although it may not sound like much, the film was written by Thomasin’s father, Stuart McKenzie, who also shared directing duties with Thomasin’s mother, Miranda Harcourt. To top it off, Thomasin also found herself acting in the film with her grandmother, Kate Harcourt. Does it get any better than that?

That was not the first time that Thomasin had a chance to work with her mother. In the 2016 film, Jean, both daughter and mother starred in the movie. The film told the story of Jean Batten, who was billed as New Zealand’s greatest airplane flier, heroine, and celebrity. Think Amelia Earhart. Thomasin played the young Jean while Miranda played Jean’s mother, Ellen.

FINALLY, RECOGNITION

thomasin mckenzie

With most of Thomasin’s work taking place in New Zealand, in America she was still a complete unknown. That changed when she was cast opposite Ben Foster in the 2018 film, Leave No Trace. The film told the story of an army Iraq war vet father (Foster) dealing with PTSD who is living in the Oregon wilderness with his 13-year-old daughter (McKenzie). First off, we need to point out that when Thomasin McKenzie made this movie, she was 18 years old and playing a 13-year-old. Secondly, for her portrayal of a 13-year-old, McKenzie received much critical acclaim, as did Foster and the movie. This film put Thomasin on the map.

Her next film was The King, and from there she went on to another bigger role, this one in Taika Waitit’s off-beat dramedy, Jojo Rabbit. In it, Thomasin played the young Jewish girl Jojo’s mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding in their home. Her next film was True History of the Kelly Gang and then she was forced to make one of her tougher career choices. Okay, maybe it wasn’t so tough.

SORRY, TOM CRUISE

thomasin mckenzie

After years of beating around the bush, numerous starts and stops, and flirtings, Tom Cruise decided it was time to head back to the “Danger Zone.” So, when it was announced that Top Gun: Maverick was finally going to be made, the announcement also came with a list of cast members who’d be starring with him in the new adventures of Maverick. Along with Cruise were Jennifer Connelly, Miles Teller, Val Kilmer, Glen Powell, and yes, Thomasin McKenzie. She was tapped to play Connelly’s daughter in the film and one she was excited to play – until she wasn’t.

Now, it wasn’t that Thomasin wasn’t happy to be chosen to be in the film, she was. For her, though, another opportunity came up and it was one she (along with her “team”) couldn’t pass on. “I think I really listen to my team because they’ve been in the industry for a lot longer than I have and so they have a lot more experience than I do,” she admitted on Collider Ladies Night. “Also it just comes down to instincts. I was very lucky to have the option to do something else. I did Lost Girls instead. I was so honored to have been considered to be a part of Top Gun. That’s bloody amazing! It’s really, really cool. But I think Lost Girls was a story that I was really interested in telling that was a female director, basically, the entire cast was female so I really wanted to be a part of that.” Smart move, young lady.

In Lost Girls, McKenzie got to show off her acting chops, but those who were finally taking notice of the young actress were also seeing a young actress developing and fine-tuning her craft. What makes Thomasin McKenzie special is she speaks a heavily accented New Zealand. But to see her in some of her films, you would not know this. She has an amazing command of accents, one that she is very proud of. “I love accents,” she gushed to ELLE magazine. “What I do on set is use it in between takes so that it feels very natural. Cornish is one of my favorite accents I’ve ever done, with all the ‘ayes’ and the great sounds!”

Her Cornish accent is one she used as Elosie in the Edgar Wright’s psychological horror film, Last Night in Soho. But she has also been heard using a German accent, Australian, as well as various American and British accents. Amazingly enough, Thomasin McKenzie had her very first American talk show interview right before Last Night in Soho premiered and you can hear her New Zealand accent in full force as she spoke to Stephen Colbert.

Thomasin McKenzie may claim to be shy (which she truly, probably is) but she does maintain a healthy social media presence. She is big on Instagram, and she is slowly starting to get a decent following, approaching 400K followers. She is very current with her posts and isn’t shy to feature family, friends, and even her pooch.

The world is Thomasin McKenzie’s oyster and she is just beginning to grow into it. She presently is staring in another New Zealand series called Life After Life and has two projects ready to go – Eileen and Gossamer. After that, Thomasin will be playing American gymnast and Olympic hero, Kerri Strug in the film, Perfect.